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Down and Dirty

This Earth Day weekend was spectacular. The rain stopped for our neighborhood’s Third Annual Community Cleanup and people fanned out around our twenty square blocks with garbage bags, claw grabbers and gloves to clean the streets and storm gutters from debris. I found a jury-rigged clothes hanger for breaking into cars, an empty bottle of cinnamon whiskey along with lots of beer bottles, and a discarded sippy cup filled with milk! But the worst culprit by far was cigarette butts.

It’s hard to believe people still smoke, or vape, or whatever. It’s a dirty business, smoking, and I’ve always hated it. As a kid I was stuck in a small house with two chain smokers, and occasionally in a small Corvair with the windows closed. I felt trapped in a cloud of noxious fumes and vowed then and there to never smoke.

I’ve seen the culture change around smoking, and I can only hope to see our culture change around guns. Suicides by gun, “accidental” handgun and hunting accidents, mass murders like our recent Waffle House massacre in TN (our 2nd in a few months), and even the occasional crime of passion are all a national public health emergency.

When the white supremacists in Cville outgunned the local police, well maybe that should have been a good clue – if not Sandy Hook or Parkland.

Maybe we should call out the National Guard? After all they were all stationed in DC for the Women’s March. I waved to them sitting in their buses waiting to be deployed in case things got nasty. They already know how to handle a gun, you wouldn’t have to educate teachers and arm them.

Just put a few National Guardspeople in every school, shopping center, cinema, music concert, sports arena, oh and restaurant…maybe even every workplace? We already have an armed militia, so why not use them to fight our gun nuts?

It would seem the only newsworthy part of the latest mass murder was the killer’s state of undress when a semi nude guy strolled into the Waffle House just a few miles south of here with an AR-15. At least we knew he didn’t have a bomb strapped on his chest. And because he was white, a reporter asked the sheriff if he thought the suspect was “mentally ill!”

Wearing only a jacket, the accused gunman, 29-year-old Travis Reinking, allegedly fatally shot two people outside the Antioch restaurant, police said.
He continued his rampage inside the restaurant, killing two more. Reinking fled the scene completely naked after a customer intervened.

https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/24/us/tennessee-waffle-house-shooting/index.html

Never mind that he kept an arsenal in his house, that he had waltzed onto the White House lawn before, that his father returned all his guns to him after the FBI had confiscated them…we all need to know WHY?

A white supremacist is a terrorist. A brown jihadist is a terrorist. Anyone with an AR-15 wants to terrorize someone. They ALL may even be mentally ill, so….

You know the definition of crazy right? “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

When we as a country allow these mass murders to happen over and over and over again, we are the very definition of an insane society. When our legislators listen to TV personalities and NRA lobbyists, we the people suffer. The first thing we need to do is get all those weapons of war off our streets, to reinstate the assault weapon ban of 1994.

Or maybe Macron can get Mr T to sign the Paris Climate Agreement? It’s a toss-up, the American people or Mother Earth? Either way, we’ll have to get down and dirty.

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A Feminist Aria

Ann Patchett was sitting right in front of me last night at Parnassus Bookstore. We were listening to Meg Wolitzer read from her new book, “The Female Persuasion,” when Ann (I hope I can call her Ann since I see her so much around town) asked if the sum of a writer’s work isn’t simply an aria – one voice:

“aria, an elaborate accompanied song for solo voice from a cantata, opera, or oratorio.”

In other words, every book you write is saying something about you, about what’s really important to you. Your subjects may change, your place in time or your landscape may change, but your unique Voice, your Point of View comes through consistently, almost unwillingly.

And Wolitzer has written plenty of books, in fact this is her tenth novel. She notes that she actually started writing “The Female Persuasion” a few years before the #MeToo movement, but she has always been interested in female friendships, and the power dynamics in relationships. This book pivots around a college campus where a young female student, Greer with a streak of “electric blue hair,” is mentored by an older feminist writer, Faith Frank.

The audience last night was a mix of ages, young feminists with severely short hair, mixed in with my aging variety and a few men. One shop dog named Bear strolled around the room, while the smaller variety, Mary Todd Lincoln was cradled in a baby wrap on a bookseller’s hip. Wolitzer read from her opening chapter, where Greer is groped by an entitled frat boy at a party her freshman year. I wondered how many of us could relate to that!

I thought about a friend’s son, a quiet innocent boy, who went off to college only to be expelled after an episode with a girlfriend he dared to break up with – he was an unsuspecting sheep while she turned into a wolf. I thought about the UVA Lacrosse player who was killed in her dorm room by her off/and/on boyfriend. And that girl who was raped and left outside a garbage can at Stanford.

“Novels can be a snapshot of a moment in time, or several moments in time, and as a reader that’s what I really like, and as a writer, it’s what I’m drawn to also. It can’t be a polemic. I’m always saying, What is it like? That’s one of the mantras of writing novels for me. And then, in the game of musical chairs, the book is coming out now.”  

http://www.vulture.com/2018/04/meg-wolitzer-doesnt-want-to-be-tied-to-a-moment.html

Wolitzer would call her publisher and ask her assistant first, a millennial, “Before you put me through, tell me, what was it like being a feminist at your college?” 

And that was my question. At my Boston college in 1966 we didn’t have the word “feminism” yet. We couldn’t wear pants outside our dorm, we had to wear a dress or a skirt once we left the brownstone. We didn’t have birth control pills or roofies or mind-altering drugs, yet. There was obviously no social media, if a girl dropped out, you assumed she got pregnant. We didn’t wear bobby socks, we wore knee socks. We had no recourse, no defense; we huddled together and traded tricks sneaking into the Beacon Street residence after curfew.

We had a phone booth in the downstairs lobby!

Strangely enough, Wolitzer hits her mark writing about today’s college culture, about those times in our lives when we meet someone who will change our trajectory. Her generation is just behind mine, a decade younger – the second (or is it third) wave of feminism. And she mentioned that another Nashvillian, Nicole Kidman, has optioned the rights to play her character Faith in the movie.

My first thought was, so Kidman is playing a mid-60 year old woman? And I immediately slapped that thought away as too judgmental, the opposite of feminist, after all maybe Helen Mirren is unavailable!

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Cafe au Lait

My sister Kay has me hooked on the grocery store version of Starbucks Frappuccino Mocha Light, in the little blue top 1.12 L glass bottles. I keep them in the fridge for an emergency boost of caffeine. In fact, this morning after yoga I popped a top and am still sipping its delectable, milk-shaky goodness.

My favorite Starbucks drink, at their brick and mortar store, is an” Iced Grande Dirty Chai Tea Latte with coconut milk!”  Granted it’s literally tea, but still with a shot of espresso!

When did it become normal to pay $5 for a cup of coffee? As a kid, I remember coffee costing less than a dollar at the local Woolworths. The Flapper made “instant” coffee, with those brown granules and I still wonder how people can drink that stuff. Kay and my brothers carried on her tradition of hot instant coffee first thing in the morning, so we’d have to import our own whenever we visited.

I’ve always been a Starbucks fan, especially when the Rocker started working at one during high school. His first day of work was supposed to be 9/11/2001, but they closed early that day on the Jersey Shore, like so many businesses and schools. One of the perks (get it?) of having your teenager work there after school was a free pound of coffee every week! And they also started the Rocker on a 401K plan, as a part-timer, which was awesome.

We are surrounded here in the Music City with some off-the-charts local coffee shops. You almost need a degree in botanicals to order to order a cup of Joe in most of them; but, if you’re a coffee connoisseur, and you like to know which country and sustainable farm produced the beans and where and how they were roasted etc, then you’d be in heaven around our townhouse. We can walk to three amazing local coffee shops -“Cascara (Coffee Cherry Tea) / Spiced Butter / Maple/ Sassafras & Sorghum Bitters / served with Askinose Chocolate + Black Licorice Square” anyone? –  complete with lots of man buns, but our nearest Starbucks is a drive across town.

Yesterday we landed in an East Nashville coffee shop that has walls full of bookshelves holding board games! It was cold and rainy and there were lots of people sitting around playing games while drinking coffee, and get this, they were actually taking to each other! No necks craned down to the blue light of a cell phone.

Our only Starbucks complaint so far has been the typical “Old Person” refrain – “Why can’t these young people find a library to study in?” All the people taking up a perfectly fine table plugged into their computers doing “work,” so that Bob and I have to perch on a tall window seat overlooking the parking lot. It’s not bad, but it’s also not comfortable. Sometimes I’ve actually wanted a manager to kick some person out, you know that guy who finished his drink a long time ago and is just sitting there on his phone taking up space, but I’m a good ole Catholic school girl, so I never say anything.

In fact, I’ve never witnessed anyone being kicked out of Starbucks, not even when those gun-nuts were trying to make a point by open-carrying into the Cville store. I want to believe that the Philly store’s manager was an anomaly last week, “Waiting While Black” should NOT be a reason to call the police, or give anyone the boot.

“…police received a 911 call around 4:40 p.m. on Thursday from Starbucks employees saying that “two males were trespassing” and “refused to leave.” According to Ross, the two men did not order food and had asked to use the bathroom, but Starbucks policy does “not allow non paying people from the public to come in and use the restroom.”

I’m looking at the Silver Lining here. The manager was fired and training in bias and customer relations should benefit every worker, not just baristas. I’m willing to give Starbucks a second chance, the CEO apologized and my chai tea awaits. Although the “Sweet Caroline” I had across the street – a dark chocolate, hazelnut and amaretto cappuccino – was to die for before the Nashville Ballet!

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Kakistocracy

“Kakistocracy = a government of the least qualified and most unscrupulous.”

It would seem that the least of my worries right now is planting my herbs before it rains. Bob and I were outside this morning, on this beautiful Spring day, digging in the dirt. Along came two lovely girls who were looking at the house for sale next door and naturally we started chatting.

One girl fell in love with Bean, who was very happy to be loved until all her fur fell off. Then the young woman opened up and told me she is engaged and her fiance is deployed overseas, and she hasn’t heard from him in three days. Three days. He’s a Marine on a ship in the general area of Syria.

And I thought pardoning Scooter and talk/Tweeting about James Comey’s new book are fine ways to take our eyes off the ball. We are inching closer to a proxy war becoming a real war with Russia very quickly: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-43747922 And thatscares the crap out of me.

Just as this new Cold War is heating up, ex-CIA Chief John O Brennan Tweeted this to Mr T:

Your kakistocracy is collapsing after its lamentable journey. As the greatest Nation history has known, we have the opportunity to emerge from this nightmare stronger & more committed to ensuring a better life for all Americans, including those you have so tragically deceived.

I can only hope he’s right, that Trump’s house of cards will fall long before he manages to do any more harm. And if that young woman becomes our neighbor, that her Marine returns to her this summer. We’ll give him a block party!

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One of Nashville’s favorite Hockey players, Predator’s Viktor Arvidsson, was recently signed to a seven year contract for 29.75 MILLION dollars! All he’s got to do is show up and have fun. https://www.nashvillescene.com/news/cover-story/article/20999248/viktor-victorious-an-interview-with-viktor-arvidsson

You don’t have to attend college to play hockey, you just have to be born with some natural talent and determination. And the juxtaposition of that almost 30 million contract next to the starting salary of 30 thousand a year for our teachers (the same educators some think we should train in firearms) says volumes.

In many states across the country, public school teachers are organizing for a living wage and better conditions for their students after years of funding cuts.

” For K-12 expenditures, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities showed that in 29 states, total state funding per student was lower in the 2015 school year than in the 2008 school year in real terms. In Arizona, spending per student was down an astonishing 36.6 percent; in Oklahoma, it had dropped 15.6 percent; in Kentucky, 5.9 percent.”

Why is this union walk-out different? Because teachers aren’t just looking for a pay hike; they want well-maintained, not crumbling buildings, they want a smaller student-teacher ratio, they want every student to have up-to-date textbooks. This did not just happen overnight or after our 2008 “recession;” I recall outsourcing janitorial staff in the 90s to save money. Property taxes were funding everything from an increasing need for special education staff and transportation, to maintaining teachers’ rising pensions and medical benefits.

In TN, teachers can expect a starting salary of $36,402. Of course you don’t risk loosing your teeth due to pedagogy, and you don’t have quite as much down time as say a hockey player. But you are expected to furnish the ever-present supply of tissues and Purell, pencils and paper, and the patience of a saint. It’s no wonder there’s a teaching shortage – even when both partners are working, it’s nearly impossible to provide for a family of four on a teacher’s salary.

“Inherit the Wind” was playing down the road at the Nashville Repertory Theater, so Bob and I braved the cold and Lyfted over to see a play about a man who was trying to teach evolution to his high school science students. Based on the real “Scopes Monkey Trial” that took place in 1925 just east of here in Dayton, TN, the courtroom battle between science and religion ran in almost every newspaper in the country and around the world.

The ACLU was challenging passage of the Butler Act earlier that year; “The Butler Act forbid the teaching of any theory that denied the biblical story of Creationism. By teaching that man had descended from apes, the theory of evolution, Scopes was charged with breaking the law.”

The play was turned into a famous movie in the 50s in partial reaction to the McCarthy hearings. But the playwrights were more concerned with our “right to think,” rather than a battle between evangelicalism and facts. Still, this anti-intellectualism is alive and well today at a time when almost 40% of the American people still believe in Creationism.

On the brighter side, since the election there’s been a growing resistance to Trumpist ideology; red states are electing their first blue legislators in years, students are leading the country fighting gun violence and the NRA, and the #MeToo movement has ushered in a new wave of feminism.

The more Mr T chips away at fundamental human rights in the name of personal and corporate greed, the more WOKE our citizens are becoming; it would seem that critical-thinking skills are thankfully still being taught in our schools. My generation started a sea change in the fabric of American society, now it’s up to our children’s generation to repair some of this past year’s damage. And young voters are registering in record numbers!

After all, who doesn’t want to save the polar bear’s ice? Or is ice hockey more important than the Antarctic? Granted, the 24 year old “R-V” Predator seems like a great guy, and who doesn’t love a good hockey game? Are they both mutually exclusive?

Meanwhile, remember our cherry tree the Love Bug was climbing? It’s in full pink pom-pom bloom despite freezing temperatures.

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Slapping a 25% tariff on American made motorcycles and pigs is just one repercussion of China’s knee-jerk reaction to the Clown Rodeo we call Mr T’s government. When are all his lawyers going to jump out of a tiny Smart Car and yell, “We’re fired!” at the top of their lungs?

Iowa, Michigan and Florida have some heavy thinking to do after POTUS’s latest missteps. Because it’s not just Harleys, but our auto industry and our delectable orange crop that may be impacted! But hey, the Market was sinking today, so maybe somebody is paying attention? Which is why I’d rather talk about The Year of the Bird! And in particular, one of my favorites, the Owl!

Some nights in VA, Bob and I would wake up to the sound of two owls hooting at each other from opposite ends of our property. The sound is like nothing you’ve ever heard, it’s not really a “hoot,” it’s more like a shrill announcement, “Look at me! I have the best tree available in the forest!” And it sounds more like “Who cooks for you?” I guess the way to a man’s heart is really through his…. http://www.audubon.org/news/learn-identify-five-owls-their-calls

If you’ve noticed these sounds at night this month, it’s because raptors (of which owls are a part) have been nesting early due to Climate Change. It’s so incredible to think of all the slight, small changes we have come to believe are the “New Normal.” Our semantics helps us devalue the incredible changes we’ve been experiencing…there are climate “deniers,” not delusional Republicans who value their shareholders more than they value their future progeny.

It takes a long time to raise a baby hawk or owl to the size at which it can fend for itself. Even though both parents are hunting for and feeding them, such large birds grow slowly. So by beginning to nest early, the hawks and owls fledge their young by the time spring arrives. This is just about the time young rodents and rabbits are leaving their nests in great numbers. The young birds, ‘though inexperienced in catching their own meals, have a lot of potential prey to make their hunting a bit easier and their survival more likely. 

But what about our young? Will our Great Grands have to learn to live in an entirely different climate? Or maybe a different planet? Will seasons disappear from certain continents? Will redheads become extinct because of the inevitable heat? My only hope is that the Blue Wave will actually wash ashore this November. I’ve done my best to register voters in TN, and I think the younger generation has figured out the shell game commonly known as politics.

While the Northeast braces for more snow, we here in Nashville are experimenting with a rather “normal” Spring. It’s been cold and rainy for days, which is wonderful when we think about those many days of 90+ degrees to come. We may need a Super Hero to save the day! As my L’il Pumpkin says, “I like it cold!” So do I baby, so do I.

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Is this the Year of the Dog, or the Year of the Bird? Last night, a gorgeous picture of a Boykin Spaniel popped up on my Instagram. Liver colored, with soulful eyes, droopy ears and curly fur, it looked just like my very first dog. She was the sweetest, most lovable creature ever, although maybe everyone’s first love takes on a special significance over time.

The Boykin’s photo was courtesy of a National Geographic photographer I’m following who is shooting a series called the #yearofthedogs. His name is Vincent J Musi, “…a trusted friend to animals everywhere.” He doesn’t just capture their distinct personalities, he tells you a little bit about his encounter – like how much the dog may have drooled, while noting that he’s also drooled back in the day. It’s a witty and wonderful start (or end) to any day!

Meanwhile, in the middle of my Monday, I found myself at the Animal Hospital with the Bride and Groom’s older dog, the much loved G-man. I just happened to be playing super heroes with our L’il Pumpkin when I noticed Mr G really digging into one of his paws. Upon closer inspection there was blood on his dew claw; so without further adieu, we headed to the Vet. At that point the Love Bug came home from school and wanted to keep us company.

Her level of empathy is amazing for a 5 year old.

I’ll dispense with the gory details, Mr G is now wearing the cone of shame to keep him from tearing off his bandaged leg. The hardest part will be keeping the new puppy from trying to attack him, um play with him. Maybe I should visit our friend Robin’s pet store, “Come, Sit, Stay” to find Mr G a special treat?

What is it about dogs? Almost every picture I have of me as a child has me standing next to, or holding a dog. The Flapper’s first child, my half-sister Shirley, the one I never knew, used to raise Welsh Corgis. Of all the dogs in the AKC, I too chose Corgis to adore when my children were little, never knowing that Shirley felt the same way. German Shepherd dogs hold a special place in my heart, and let’s face it, ANY and ALL rescues, like Ms Bean and G-Man.

My niece Lynn breeds the regal Scottish Deerhound, a breed known for their sweet temperament. She’s in that category of Best in Show dogs, traveling the country with a plethora of hounds in the back seats. Come to think of it, Shirley’s daughter Karen loves to travel with her canine companions too! Hmm, now that’s a children’s book!

Every other dog you meet in Nashville is a Frenchie! I loved Musi’s photo of a French Bulldog named Larry, who is friendly in a “take over the world” kind of way. Y’all know my Francophile ways, so a Frenchie might just fit with us whenever and where ever the wind blows. Having one pup in a city townhouse is enough for now.

But I digress, because I was wondering about 2018 now that we are 3 months in, and it seems that this isn’t the Year of the Dog, even though I’m a dog addict. It’s the “Year of the Bird!”

“National Geographic, National Audubon Society, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, BirdLife International, and more than 100 organizations join forces for 12 months of storytelling and science to examine how our changing environment is impacting birds around the globe.”

However, I wasn’t entirely wrong because according to the Chinese calendar 2018 is the Year of the Dog! Loosely translated we should all have “prosperous wealth.” I’m OK with that, because a house isn’t a home until it’s covered in fur. Maybe my next post will be about birds, and the way Ms Bean just plucked one out of the air!? Happy Birding everyone!

Awwww poor G-Man.

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